ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Those who have attended any of the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in the city of Anchorage might be familiar with a group that’s been seen in large numbers at the events called PSL, or the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Local organizers with PSL said that while the group is not directly affiliated with the larger Black Lives Matter Movement, they said that they are in strong support.
Members of PSL Anchorage have been at the front of the large crowds of protesters in Delaney Strip Park and Downtown Anchorage in front of the police station. They have been the main organizers of at least one of the recent rallies.
Locally, PSL has a list of 13 demands around the defunding of the Anchorage Police Department.
They take aim at several issues, ranging from taking away what they feel to be excessive police equipment like tear gas and flash bangs, decriminalizing drug users and sex workers, providing more housing services to the homeless to keep them off the streets, and providing more civilian oversight to the police department.
An active member, Michael Patterson, described some of his frustrations with how the police are held accountable to Channel 2 reporters on June 19th.
“I’ve watched two town halls where Chief Doll and Mayor Berkowitz, and the chief will say, ‘well, you know we have the Office of Special Prosecution and we have the Alaska Police Standards Council,’” Patterson said, “and both times, he has failed to mention that he, Chief Doll, is the chair of the Alaska Police Standards Council. He likes to mention that civilians are on that council but fails to mention every single time that of 13 seats on the council, four of them are civilians.”
One of the biggest items on their agenda that has been the topic of individual protests in the city is the shooting of Lufilufilimalelei “Daelyn” Polu. Who was shot and killed by an Anchorage Police Officer in February. They want the case reopened and investigated further, to seek justice for the victim and his family.
Many of the demands are focused around helping people before they feel the need to commit crimes according to Tanner Parker, one of the local organizers in PSL Anchorage.
Another one of the demands is requiring that APD go through more mental health training.
“We mostly see them as people who end up dealing with the crime in the aftermath of it,” Parker said, “It's very rare that the police are actually there dealing with the problem itself, and if we had people who are more trained to deal with certain issues like people who are dealing with a mental health crisis. Instead of sending someone over there who has a gun, have someone over there who's been trained to deal with people who are mentally unstable."
At a rally in front of APD on June 19th, Parker had a much different tone on defunding the department.
“We want to not only to see police reform, we want to see them gone with. Because the way that police exist now is a threat to most people's lives,” he said, “and the only people they serve is the white supremacists system that this entire country is built on.”
At that rally, he went on to describe the list of demands as a step in the right direction.
In general, Parker said that the idea behind many of them is to try and help some people rather than incarcerating them.
“It's more of a re-location of funds that is going to do essentially the same thing just in a different way than I think people are normally used to,” Parker said, “When they think of stopping crime, they think of like getting more officers out there cracking down and having harder laws. But we believe something opposite. We believe if you give people the chance to actually make something of their life and do something with it, they will."
In Mayor Berkowitz’s June 19th press conference, he responded to questions about the group saying he had heard of them, but hasn’t received any direct contact to meet with them. Park confirmed on Thursday that they had not met with him nor Chief Doll at this point.
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